For many years, Rainier has been a bit of a tease, tempting me from afar with her beauty on the rare crisp cloudless days of fall and winter then hiding behind a dense veil of cloud in the summer when I make the drive down to hike on her shoulder. This summer Lady Rainier broke the spell, and for two glorious days spent camping and hiking with the most wonderful group of Alpine Trails Book Club ladies for our Weekend in Paradise I basked in the mountain’s glory.
When Ashley started the Alpine Trails Book Club back in 2016, one of the first book & hike parings that came to my mind was A Year in Paradise paired with some hiking in - if you haven’t already guessed - Paradise! Sadly, being on the southeast corner of Mt Rainier National Park, Paradise is a long drive from the Seattle area, so it took us a while to get there. I know that to really make the most of our time spent at the park, we’d need to camp which in the oh-so-popular national park would mean planning well in advance. On the cold, gloomy December day I booked our group campsite, July felt very far off, but when the time came to finalize plans and head off on our long dreamed of weekend in Paradise it felt like a surprise!
Our weekend in Paradise started off with a hike to Comet Falls with the option to continue up to Van Trump Park if snow permitted - which it happily did. We lucked out and had some truly summery weather all weekend, with bluebird skies and sweltering temperatures. During our climb to the falls, we found ourselves stopping often to take photos of the various blooms and glimpses of water tumbling through canyons and over rocks. Even though I’d seen photos before of the main event - Comet Falls - I was stunned by their scale. As we got closer, the roar of the water overwhelmed our senses and drew us ever closer, until we stood as a group giddy and shivering in the spray radiating from the falls.
After our icy shower in the falls, we continued our upward climb to Van Trump Park, and after only a few switchbacks, we found ourselves confronted with hillsides snowy with an abundance of aptly named avalanche lilies. The dainty little blossoms made for an excellent excuse for frequent pauses as the trail switchbacked steeply to the meadows of Van Trump Park. Upon entering the park, we were confronted with the first of many up-close encounters with Mt Rainier. As we ate our lunch in the shade at the bedraggled edge of the timberline, the mountain watched over us approvingly.
After a stop by our campsite to set up tents and eat an early dinner, we left camp for our second hike of the day - a sunset trip to Pinnacle Saddle. Once again, our hike delivered an abundance of avalanche lilies and stunning views of Rainier. After already hiking the six miles to Van Trump Park in the morning, my feet and knees were already aching, so I was happy to stop about a half mile shy of the actual saddle, soaking in the alpenglow from my quiet spot on the trail. Hiking back to the trailhead in the dark, I found myself chilled, exhausted, and oh-so happy.
The next morning, we headed up to Paradise proper for our official book club hike. After taking our time, pausing often to act as paparazzi to the many marmots we spotted lounging in the meadows, we found the morning slipping by. Over lunch, Ashley read a beautiful passage from the book as we watched ant sized climbers inching their way up Rainier’s massive glaciers. Too soon, it was time to leave Paradise behind and head home, but before leaving we absolutely had to stop by the Paradise Inn to see the home that Floyd and his wife Ruth had shared for a brief time. Going home, with sore feet, sunburnt shoulders, and an overwhelming feeling of bliss, Floyd Schmoe’s words echoes in my mind.